Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Holiday Feasting

I never appreciated how much good holiday food I've eaten in my life until I had to make it myself. Of course, Thanksgiving means that the turkey and all the fixin's make it to the [beautifully decorated] table. Christmas means another huge feast, not to mention, special breakfast, cookies, neighbor treats, gingerbread for the gingerbread houses, and oranges and nuts finding their way to the bottom of our stockings. Somehow, all these years, the tasty food has always made it to the table, and the only considerations I made were how I could fit both the mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes on that little space still available on my plate.

This being my first Christmas as the mom, it was enlightening to create the holiday food traditions. In some ways, it was fun to bring old classic dishes from my home and new recipes that call for such a festive occasion. In other ways, I missed sitting in my childhood kitchen, doing something small like peeling potatoes or making the salad while chatting with my mom, who was probably making five dishes simultaneously, pots on all burners, gently simmering away. But, after all, I felt a kinship with my mom and her mom and all the mothers who came before, because our tradition of cooking holiday meals transforms any old December 25th into Christmas Day, the day of the Savior's birth! What a good reason to celebrate!

This was our Christmas Eve feast:

Honey-Orange Ham
This recipe came from an old Martha Stewart Christmas issues--maybe 2004? Anyway, it actually features the family of an old mission buddy of my husband's--Matt H., if you are our there, thank your mom for her great ham recipe! Your Christmas in Midway was picture perfect!
1 whole smoked ham (14 to 18 pounds), bone in and rind on
1/2 cup honey
1/3 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 large onion, cut into 6 wedges
1 large orange, cut into 6 wedges
4 sprigs rosemary
1/2 cup cider vinegar
3 1/2 cups chicken stock
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

1. Rinse ham with cool water; dry with paper towels. Let stand, uncovered, at room temperature 1 hour. Meanwhile, whisk together honey, orange juice, balsamic vinegar, and mustard; set aside.
2. Preheat oven to 300 degrees, with rack in lower third. FIt a roasting pan with a rack and place ham, with the thicker rind on top, on rack. Scatter onion and orange wedges and rosemary around ham on rack. Transfer to oven and cook 1 hour.
3. Remove pan from oven and let ham cool slightly. Increase oven temperature to 350 degrees. Trim fat all over the ham to a layer of about 1/4 inch (it does not need to be perfectly even; the bottom will have less fat and more skin). Turn ham, bottom side down. Score fat on top of ham in a diamond pattern, each 1 to 2 inches, cutting about 1/4 to 1/2 inch through the fat and into the meat. Baste with honey mixture. Add enough water to roasting pan to fill the bottom by about 1/4 inch.
4. Return ham to oven, and cook 1 hour more, basting often with remaining marinade (do not baste with pan juices). If necessary, add water to pan to keep juices from burning. Remove from oven; transfer ham to a serving platter; discard orange, onion, and rosemary. Let stand 30 minutes before carving ham.
5. Meanwhile, make gravy: Strain liquid from roasting pan into a liquid measuring cup or bowl, and skim off fat from surface with a large spoon. Place roasting pan over medium-high heat. Add cider vinegar, and simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated. Return defatted juices to pan along with 2 cups stock. Bring to a boil, and let simmer.
6. In a small bowl, whisk together remaining 1 1/2 cups stock and the flour; whisk into sauce. Continue simmering until liquid is reduced by half and slightly thickened. Season with salt and pepper. Serve hot with ham.

Green Bean, Watercress, and Crispy Shallot Salad
Coarse Salt and Ground Pepper
1 Pound Green Beans, trimmed
1 cup vegetable oil, such as safflower
3 Shallots, thinly sliced crosswise into rings
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from one lemon)
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 bunch watercress, tough stems removed

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. [they say to have a big bowl of ice water ready to go to dunk the beans, but I just scoop up the green beans with my seive and rinse the beans in cold water from the faucet. Less messy and a lot less work.] Line a baking sheet with paper towels. Cook green beans in boiling water until bright green and crisp-tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Rinse in cold water to stop cooking. Cool green beans completely, then transfer to lined baking sheet and pat dry.

2. In a small saucepan, heat vegetable oil over medium-low. In a small bowl, toss shallots with flour. Working in three batches, fry shallots in oil until golden and crispy, 2 to 4 minutes. Transfer shallots to paper towels and season generously with salt.

3. In a small bowl, whisk lemon juice, mustard, and olive oil to combine; season dressing with salt and pepper. Place watercress on a serving platter and drizzle with half the dressing. Toss with green beans and remaining dressing. Serve sprinkled with shallots. [not being a huge fan of fried things, I couldn't get over how much I loved these shallots!! They seem like a sophisticated indulgence, even though they are glorified onion rings.]

And, for something sweet, I made another apple pie and a chocolate pistachio torte . Love that death by chocolate.

I chickened out of making rolls, even after a good pep-talk and fabulous recipe from my friend and roll mentor, Kristy. Instead, I delegated the rolls, along with a few other dishes to our gracious dinner guests. Kristy, I will make dinner rolls successfully and give the full report. That's a new year's resolution.

For Christmas morning, however, I attempted baking with yeast, for better or for worse. I was equipped with an acclaimed orange roll recipe, tried and true among good friends, and can you imagine the perfect Christmas picture of opening presents, while the aroma of orange rolls waft through the house from the kitchen?! I know!

I attempted Tiffany's famous recipe:
Out of this World Rolls
2 packages dry yeast
1/3 cup warm water
3 eggs, well beaten
4 ½ cups flour
1 cup warm water
½ cup shortening
½ cup sugar
2 teaspoons salt

Soften yeast in ¼ cup warm water. Let stand 10 minutes. Combine dissolved yeast, eggs, 2 ½ cups flour, 1 cup warm water, shortening, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Beat until smooth. Add remaining flour to make a soft dough. Cover. Let rise until double in bulk (about 1 hour.) Punch down and refrigerate overnight. Three hours before baking, roll out as desired. For dinner rolls, divide dough in half. Roll each half into a ½” thick rectangle. Spread with butter. Starting with the long side, roll up jelly-roll style. Cut in 1” slices. Place in greased muffin tins, cut side down. Cover. Let rise 3 hours. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 7 to 8 minutes or until slightly brown. YIELD: 2 ½ dozen rolls.

1/3 cup butter
½ cup sugar
Rind of 1 orange, grated

Combine ingredients. After rolling dough into two ½” thick rectangles, divide above mixture and spread on ½ of each rectangle. Fold rectangles in half. Cut each into 12 strips with a pizza cutter. Pick up each strip and gently stretch, then tie into a knot. Place on greased baking sheet with edges, making sure the ends of the dough are tucked underneath roll. Let rise 3 hours. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 7 to 8 minutes or until slightly brown. Make sure they are baked through so they are not doughy. Drizzle with powdered sugar icing while warm. (Powdered sugar, milk, vanilla, dash of salt.)

Mine were good for the most part, except I think I made them maybe 3 times the size that they were intended. My yield was maybe 12, instead of the recipe's suggested 2 1/2 I pulled them out, they were pretty doughy in some spots. I cut out the dough, and we enjoyed them thoroughly.

To round things out, I made some yogurt parfaits. I loved it, even though I suspect that the boys thought they were too girly somehow. Sorry, guys, no egg casserole today! Let's keep things a little lighter, shall we?
Pretty Pink Parfaits
2 cups strawberry yogurt
frozen berries, thawed
1 banana
sweetened whipped cream

Layer in a parfait glass: yogurt, granola, berries, banana. Repeat until parfait reaches the top of the glass and top with whipped cream and a tad more granola.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

a giveaway...

on my family blog that includes food that is divine.

click HERE to read up.....

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christmas Guacamole

Who am I kidding? I'll pretty much eat this guac year-round as long as I can find pomegranates. It is especially festive for Christmas with the green avocado and red tomatoes and pomegranate seeds. I know it sounds different, but give it a try. It's delicious!

Christmas Guacamole
Seeds of 1 ripe pomegranate
1 avocado, chopped
1 tomato, chopped,
2 Tbsp. red onion, finely chopped
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1 Tbsp. Lemon or Lime juice
Salt to taste

Combine all ingredients together and serve with tortilla chips. I love the "hint of lime" tortilla chips served with dips that have avocado in them. Click HERE for a great tutorial on de-seeding a pomegranate that won't leave your clothes, fingers and sink stained red.
Also, did you see Jane's (of This Week for Dinner) tip about how to select good, ripe avocados? If not, click HERE.


This is my new favorite wassail recipe. I have traditionally used the Lion House Cookbook recipe, but this will be my new go-to recipe. My sister gave this to me a couple weeks ago after attending a cookie exchange. She said it best: "it tastes like you want wassail to taste." And, guess what else? It's easy!

4 Cups Apple Juice
2 Cups Cranberry Juice
1 Cup Orange Juice
1 can (12 oz.) Apricot Nectar
1 Cup Sugar
2 cinnamon sticks

Combine all ingredients and simmer for 20 minutes. Serve hot.

Apricot Nectar is kind of a unique ingredient. It is typically sold by the 12 oz. can in the juice aisle at the grocery store. Some brands I am familiar with are Kerns and Goya. At my grocery store I could only find a six-pack of small 5.5 oz cans.

party dip

this comes from my ever wonderful anut ann. she was a big influence on my love of food from childhood. we did a lot with her family growing up and i could ALWAYS, ALWAYS count on something good from her kitchen. she brought this to a family get together last christmas and i have never been the same. i have made this to death. i used fresh corn this summer when it was in abundance and it was marvelous! this is a great party dip, i highly recommend it coming to your parties......


3 cans mexicorn – drained
1 jalapeno pepper chopped (or use canned jalapeno’s to
3 green onions chopped
1 cup sour cream
1 cup mayonnaise
1 can diced green chilies – drained
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon chili powder
dash of cayenne pepper

Blend ingredients and chill before serving (minimum
2-3 hours).
Serve with Fritos Scoops.
This recipe makes a large amount . . . ingredients can
be easily adjusted to make 1/3 of the recipe.

thanks aunt ann. fab. really fabulous...

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Winter Bark and Christmas Cookies

I can't recommend the winter bark enough--it's as simple as melting chocolate and it is really tasty. From my few experiences with making chocolate bark, my observation is that the quality of the finished product lies completely with the quality of the ingredients. I know, this is true of all cooking, but since there are so few ingredients in this treat, it makes all the difference. You can find the recipe and cute packaging ideas here. Yum. I bought the big pound of bittersweeet chocolate with almonds at Trader Joe's, and left out the peanuts. The almonds and dark chocolate make it a very healthy option for Christmastime snacking. Right? right.

I made a variety of Christmas cookies. I didn't venture into any new recipes, but just the tried and true, soft, tasty, I-want-to-eat-a-whole-batch sort of cookies.

I made Ina Garten's Outrageous Chocolate Cookies:

8 ounces semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped [I use chocolate chips]
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 package (12 ounces) semisweet chocolate chunks

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat chopped chocolate and butter in a microwave-safe bowl in 20-second increments, stirring in between, until almost melted; do not overheat. In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.

2. In a mixing bowl, beat eggs, brown sugar, and vanilla on high speed until light and fluffy. Reduce speed to low; beat in melted chocolate. Mix in flour mixture until just combined. Stir in chocolate chunks.

3. Drop heaping tablespoons of dough 2 to 3 inches apart onto baking sheets. Bake, rotating sheets halfway through, until cookies are shiny and crackly yet soft in the centers, 12 to 15 minutes. Cool on sheets 10 minutes; with a thin metal spatula, transfer to racks to cool completely
*Don't worry if the batter seems thin. It should look more like brownie batter than cookie dough.

Here is a great chocolate chip cookie recipe. I use 1/2 cup shortening and 1/2 cup butter, rather than doing 1 cup butter. The cookies firm up a bit better. It's a winner.

And, finally, here is my mom's trustworthy gingerbread people and gingerbread house dough recipe:
1 cup sugar
1 cup shortening
1 cup molasses
1 egg
1/2 cup hot water
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ginger
5 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt

1. Cream together sugar and shortening. Beat in molasses and egg. Add the hot water.
2. Sift together dry ingredients and gradually add to the wet mixture; at the end, I always end up using my hands to mix this together.
3. Form dough into 3 large balls, wrapping them in plastic wrap and refrigerate until you are ready to use them.
4. Bake at 350 degrees, 6-8 minutes for gingerbread mean and a little more for larger pieces, or until lightly browned.

Here's her Royal Icing recipe, which is great glue to hold together gingerbread houses:
3 egg whites (room temperature)
3 1/3 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon cream of tarter
1. Combine and beat at a high speed for 7-10 minutes. This dries very quickly, so keep covered with a damp cloth.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 12, 2008

award winning chili

and it's not your typical chili. i know i posted the unrevised version.

this year our neighborhood had a chili cook off to help earn money for the local scout troop. i wanted to have a different chili that still had all of the chili components. beans, meat and tomato base.

so, i revamped the chili dumpling stew, and would you know, I WON! ecstatic i was. so here you go:

chili stew with dumplings

2 cans red kidney beans, partially drained. ( i got out most of the oil but left a little for flavor)
2 1/2 c. cubed potatoes raw (now, i use raw a lot, but if i am in a hurry i use canned diced potatoes and you can't tell the difference. there aren't many vegetables i like to use canned, but potatoes are wonderful. if you do this, you can skip the boiling stage and just add the beans and potatoes to water that has warmed over the stove.)
5 c. water
1 lb. jimmy dean HOT sausage
2 cans condensed tomato soup
1 TB. salt
1 t pepper
1/2 c chopped onions ( you could also use a dried onion 2-3 TB)
2 TB chili powder
1 c. sour cream

if your potatoes are raw, boil the water and cook until tender. add the kidney beans the last few minutes to heat them. add a pinch of salt and pepper to the boiling potatoes so you are seasoning each layer of the soup. while this is going on, saute your sausage and onions with 1 TB of chili powder, 1 t. salt and 1/2 t pepper in a skillet over medium heat until meat is no longer pink.
(i only drain my meat if there is a ton of excess oil, the oil adds so much of the flavor)
add the cooked meat mixture to potatoes and kidney beans adding the tomato soup also. add another 1 TB chili powder, 1/2 t pepper and 1 t salt at this point.
this needs to simmer for 1 hour covered.

after the hour has passed, try not to slobber all over yourself, it smells really good at this point. cover the soup and bring to a boil. (be careful not to burn the bottom, use a really good pan)
drop the dumplings onto the boiling stew at this point. let them cook for about 10-15 minutes. cut thru one and check to see if it is nice and fluffy inside.

need the dumpling recipe? here you go:
Egg Dumplings
sift together:
2 c flour
4 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
in another small bowl mix together 1 egg and 3/4 c milk.
mix all together.
your dough will be sticky but not runny. be super careful with your measurements and don't guesstimate here. i tried that last night and had to start over because i overestimated on my milk and ended up with a runny mess. anyway. they will be uneven and will puff up quite a bit.

now after you have cooked the dumplings remove them and put them on a plate. once you have your naked soup, add the 1 c sour cream to the soup and then put the dumplings back in the soup.


Monday, December 1, 2008

Pumpkin Squares

If you are wanting a little slice of pumpkin heaven, then you need to make this! It is so yummy! I got this recipe from my friend Kristen a few years ago and I make it every Fall/Winter. I took pictures but they didn't really turn out but I will tell you, it looks great in person and my house smells divine!

**important note, reserve 1 C. of dry cake mix**

Bottom layer:
1 box white cake mix
1/2 C. melted butter
1 beaten egg
-Take 1/2 C. of melted butter, 1 beaten egg and remainer of the dry cake mix and combine all together and spread into the bottom of a 9X13 pan.


1 large can of pumpkin (29 oz)
2/3 C. evaporated milk
2/3 C. sugar
3 more beaten eggs
1 T cinnamon
-Take 3 beaten eggs, evaporated milk, can of pumpkin, sugar and cinnamon and combine and pour on top of the bottom layer.

1/2 C. chopped nuts (pecans are the best!)
1/4 C. sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 T. melted butter
-Crumble together the reserved 1 C. of cake mix, 1 tsp of cinnamon, chopped nuts, sugar and melted butter. Sprinkle on top of the filling.

Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour Enjoy!